I hope he’s ready.
Andrew Wiggins, the unanimous No. 1 player in the 2013 recruiting class, will soon make a choice that will rock the college basketball world, regardless of the program he selects. The anticipation has made the buzz palpable.
I know Wiggins has been scrutinized for years. He has a mother who competed in the Olympics, a father who played in the NBA. The young Canadian has been featured on major sports networks, websites and publications.
He’s not in the spotlight. He is the spotlight.
And with that -- all top-10 recruits recognize this, especially those with the coveted No. 1 tag -- comes pressure.
If you’re a top-10 kid in the 21st Century, you’re certainly aware of the circumstances and the stakes. You’re bombarded with text messages from coaches who promise milk and honey. You’re blanketed with love in the Twittersphere, as fans try to lure you to their respective schools. When you choose one of their rivals, the love becomes hate.
These highly skilled prospects believe they’re ready for the moment. They all believe they’re prepared for the expectations. But sometimes those expectations are more overwhelming than what they’d anticipated.
I remember when I interviewed former North Carolina standout and current NBA rookie Harrison Barnes, the No. 1 prospect in the 2009 recruiting class per RecruitingNation, following an AAU tournament. He was the most mature young basketball player I’d ever encountered. His responses were measured and substantive, much like his maneuvers on the court.
He was ready.
And then we found out that he wasn’t Michael, just Harrison.
Talented and fluid but raw in some areas of his game.
The doubts soon followed. I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, when he went 0-for-12 in a loss to Minnesota during a nonconference tourney. I talked to NBA scouts who’d attended the event. Just months into Barnes’ freshman campaign, they wondered if he had the necessary edge to compete at the next level.
That’s how quickly things can change.
That’s the scrutiny Wiggins will face in 2013-14.
His contemporaries have already made their decisions. His delay is a message, whether he realizes it or not.
“I’m that good, that legit. So I’ll make the world wait.”
I understand the philosophy and respect his right to take his time. It’s a huge decision.
But he should know that the pressure is growing. Every day.
Wiggins can’t be a good player next season. He has to be an All-American, a star. That’s the only status that will justify the early praise.
Anything less than that will be considered a disappointment. Is that fair? Doesn’t matter. It’s the reality.
I know it seems like a lot to put on the shoulders of a teenager. But that’s college basketball in 2013.
He’ll be applauded when he finally makes a choice. He will not, however, have a grace period to prove his worth.
If he goes to Kentucky, he’ll have to be the best player in a recruiting class that’s already been labeled as “the greatest of all-time” without him.
If he goes to Kansas, he’ll be expected to lead the Jayhawks to their 10th consecutive Big 12 championship and second Final Four bid in three years.
If he goes to Florida State, he’ll be asked to turn the Seminoles -- who went 9-9 in conference play last season -- into ACC contenders and lead them deep into the NCAA tournament.
If he goes to North Carolina, he’ll have to be the next great Tar Heel and take the program to Dallas.
Again, Wiggins is not naive. I’m sure he gets all of this.
But the reality, once it materializes months from now, could surpass everything he’s predicted about his collegiate experience.
I’ve watched Wiggins play multiple times. He is a special talent.
Next season, however, he’ll have to confirm the rankings and ratings that place him one step above a class that features a multitude of one-and-done athletes.
So I hope he enjoys this.
Whenever he makes his choice, the news will warrant headlines throughout the country. He’ll elevate the projections of the team he picks. He’ll be lauded as a game-changer.
But he can’t answer this pressing question until next season: Was Wiggins worth the wait?
I hope he’s ready.